Hoping to receive billions of dollars in federal incentives for renewable energy projects, Connecticut is preparing to develop a strategic plan for the development of a hydrogen economy.
The bill, approved last week by the House Energy and Technology Committee, directs the Department of Energy and the Environment to develop a strategic hydrogen plan that encourages the use of renewable energy-derived hydrogen and prioritizes its use in the most difficult sectors of the economy. electrify.
The department will also have to write rules defining “clean hydrogen,” a process that is likely to generate significant controversy.
The legislation is based on recommendations from the Connecticut Hydrogen Task Force, which was created by law last year and is led by the Connecticut Green Bank. A January task force report concluded that Connecticut is well positioned to produce and use clean hydrogen as a fuel or energy source.
“As a result of Connecticut’s support for the aerospace industry, we now have an ecosystem of local clean hydrogen and fuel cell innovation and technology companies that can grow to meet potential future demand for clean hydrogen,” said James DeSantos, Legislator green bank. Communications and Deputy Director for Regulatory Policy, in testimony presented to the Energy Committee.
There is a growing consensus that clean hydrogen will play an important role in the transition to a clean energy economy. The working group’s report notes that it could be a vital alternative fuel in sectors where decarburization is difficult, such as aviation, freight transport, heavy haulage and high-temperature industrial processes.
Currently, most hydrogen is produced using natural gas. Pure hydrogen can be produced by passing electricity from renewable sources through an electrolyzer that will extract hydrogen from water.
The US Department of Energy plans to allocate up to $7 billion to establish six to ten regional hydrogen centers across the country to produce, process, deliver, store, and end use clean hydrogen. Connecticut applied for the Northeast Hub along with Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.
Cathy Ayers, vice president of research and development, Nel Hydrogen, a Wallingford-based electrolyzer company, is expanding its capacity to produce up to 500 megawatts per year of electrolytic cells, according to testimony before the committee.
And the Bridgeport Regional Business Council is evaluating how the city can benefit from a hydrogen economy, said Dan Onofrio, president of the council.
“We see a lot of opportunities coming up in the future in the field of renewable energy, which we think we are well positioned for with our deep water port,” Onofrio said. “And we have dormant properties that can be put back to productive use.”
At the same time, he said, the council is aware that potential development sites are located in communities that have historically suffered from environmental harm and risks.
“These communities were the subject of us not being as responsible as we should have been,” Onofrio said. “It’s our time to make things right.”
The hydrogen legislation will add clean hydrogen projects to a state law requiring developers of large renewable energy projects to negotiate a social benefit agreement and establish a workforce development program.
This spring, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection will release a white paper on clean hydrogen as part of its work on the State’s Comprehensive Energy Strategy. This document will include a straw proposal to define clean energy.
Pure hydrogen is federally defined as hydrogen produced from a process that results in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of up to 4 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilogram of hydrogen and less than 2 kilograms at the production site.
That could be a starting point for discussion, said Charles Rothenberger, climate and energy attorney for Save the Sound, but he and other environmentalists will push for a tougher cap.
“We would like to see a more rigorous definition that really encourages the development of green hydrogen,” he said. “Now it is very scarce and relatively expensive. It makes sense to encourage the industry to figure out how to bring that cost down.”
The Sierra Club advocates that the feedstock for hydrogen production be non-fossil fuels, not biomass, not biofuels — “to make sure we don’t gut our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in hydrogen production,” said Samantha Dynowski. state director.
Environmentalists also say the state should not focus solely on maximizing the growth of the hydrogen economy, but should consider how clean hydrogen most effectively meets the state’s decarburization goals.
Renewable energy sources are still relatively scarce, Rothenberger said, and as more sources are connected to the grid, this energy will be needed to power heat pumps in homes and buildings and charge electric vehicles. Redirecting that renewable energy to hydrogen production only makes sense, he says, if hydrogen is used to decarbonize the hardest-to-electrify sectors.
Environmentalists objected to a piece of legislation that would provide tax breaks for clean hydrogen projects. The committee subsequently removed the language.
“It was a very broad exception for everything related to the hydrogen economy,” said Ben Butterworth, director of climate, energy and equity analysis at the Acadia Center. “Ultimately, you will encourage technologies that do not meet the recommendations of the working group, such as hydrogen passenger cars and hydrogen boilers for homes.”
The bill has been filed with the Legislative Commissioner’s office, but a full vote has yet to be scheduled.